Colossal Spark is a crowdsourcing Colossal Joke

Update - we've edited this article Friday August 29, see footnote.

Colossal Spark is a brand new crowdsourcing website for advertisers, and creatives alike. Now I know what you're thinking: Great, another exploitive site a la Victors and Spoils, where the partners make a boat load of money while enlisting thousands upon thousands of minions to work for free or next to free. I'll bet they're just waiting patiently to be bought out by a holding company, there by making even MORE money.

But wait! It's totally not like that, you guys.

Okay so, it is true Colossal Spark ensures that brands get a lot of people to work on assignments for the cheapest amount possible. They have a three-tiered system. Starting for less than 5 grand for an idea, and going all the way up to less than 20 grand for a "big idea." Did I say idea? Sorry. My bad, y'all! It's not just for one idea, but dozens of 'em! For the "feet first," lowest-tiered position a brand might get an average of twelve ideas. But it could be more. Who knows? And the highest, Cannonball range gets an whopping average of 33 ideas. Sounds like a lot of work for little money doesn't it? that does sound kinda similar to the usual crowdsourcing sites...

Okay so who started this thing? Surely it's some awesome creative types, right? Well, the advisory board doesn't have a lot of traditional agencies on the map. Actually there's really none that I can see. There is some people from Google. ! Go figure!

I know you want to ask: what about the people generating the ideas? Surely they're paid fairly, right? Some digging on the FAQ site suggests that there is one finalist who is awarded "the lion's share of money," while ten finalists also get rewarded- wait for it-- wait for it-- a hundred dollars! Colossal Spark gets 15% of course, and keeps aside 5% for award entry fees so they really keep 20% but I guess the vague Lion's Share they speak of is more like 80% minus $1,000. And 80% while sounding like a lot would still depend on the amount of participants and, my head hurts from fuzzy math.
But that's okay because you know why? Guys! Colossal Spark also gives you credit! For your ideas! Free credit and a hundred bucks, or some vague "lion's share" of some sum. Holy shitballs! Sign me up!
Hold on though, it gets even better! Knowing creatives as well as they do, Colossal Spark was designed only to generate ideas. Not produce or execute them. Because why on earth would I want to actually have a hand in producing the idea I came up with, amirite? What creative wouldn't want to be treated like a fluffer?
Sign me up!
Oh but sadly, you can't just sign up. No, Colossal Spark sets its sites high, only wanting to enlist one thousand of the most creative people already out there. Wouldn't want to exploit just any one, right? No effing way, dude! How did they choose these 1,000 solid people, you ask? Let's consult the Colossal Spark FAQ once again to find out:

"Our creatives were selected through peer-to-peer recruitment. Word was spread through leading agencies, design firms, production houses, etc., inviting the cream of the industry to apply on our website. We then selected 1,000 of those with the most impressive idea track records and portfolios."

Okay so a pool of a thousand creatives makes the math seem less fuzzy and...well, still pretty horrible from a renumeration standpoint. But hey, there's more to blood sweat and tears idea generation than some paycheck, no? There's satisfaction or something. Check out this nugget from the FAQ, to a brand, answering the question 'Do Advertising Agencies hate you."

The lousy ones don’t – we’re no threat to them. The good ones shouldn’t because we’re giving their (moonlighting) creatives great briefs sans the revisions, politics and less-than-satisfactory executions – and sending them back to their offices sharp and satisfied.

While Colossal Spark is launching softly today, I have a close friend who was honored enough to be "chosen," by the Colossal Spark team back earlier this year. This was a portion of their initial email. Bold emphasis mine:

Just dropping a line to say your work's been noticed – either through a personal recommendation or because it has caught our attention recently – as one among a selection of essential innovators in the creative enterprises.

Not to over-flatter here, but your standing within your craft has snagged you a place among a limited list of professionals invited to join Colossal Spark.

Our concept:
To recruit eminent creative minds and match them with interesting brand building challenges faced by major U.S. companies – those that are comfortable looking beyond their agency of record for inventive ways to thrive.

We've founded Colossal Spark on a belief that recent changes in the technological, creative and business realms present irresistible new prospects for great work. We're also mindful of the potential bar-lowering aspects of wide-open crowdsourcing. So Colossal Spark is set up to fly or die on the principle that ideas of genius are more likely to come from a small but potent group operating outside the agency creative department.

This is why we've capped membership at 1,000. Each member will bring the experience, professionalism and whip-smart talent our clients expect. Compensation is per-project. Naturally, we offer the option of anonymity to those who desire it.

By the way, my buddy sent me an email today Ray Mond, the CEO of Colossal Spark, in preparation of the soft launch. I guess a lot of time elapsed between the beginning of the year and now, eh? No matter. Read on and be inspired. Again, emphasis mine.

Hello patient creative,

I imagine (and hope) you’ve occasionally wondered what the hell’s been going on with Colossal Spark. Well, it’s been a long, twisty road. But, in short, we’ve been hustling relentlessly to give life to our dream. It’s all taken far longer than imagined - to assemble the creative crowd we wanted, to comply with our lawyers’ demands, to establish relationships with the right journalists, to perfect our pitch deck for investors and to get the word out to potential clients.

But all is done
Colossal Spark officially, if softly, launches later today with the posting of our inaugural brief - plus another to follow next week. This first gig is a (redacted) Admittedly, it’s not of the magnitude we’ll be posting in future months, but the client is like family to us, so we thought “What better first customer?”

Calling all designers
I encourage not only web designers, but all graphic designers with interactive experience, to take up tomorrow’s brief and submit your best pitch. The company is very cool, the deliverable rather simple. And since Colossal’s crowd doesn’t contain multitudes of designers, we anticipate fewer than 10 competing on this - so the odds of winning are rather great.

Thanks to you
I have received a good number of emails from you, our creative beating heart. Some had questions, some had praise, others aired complaints. Please keep them coming. They are our outside view in. They make us better. And I will continue to reply to each one and act accordingly on its contents.! Ad agencies should be totally cool with creatives moonlighting on the side, possibly in a conflict of interest scenario, because Colossal Spark is less political and stuff. High five!

Now I have no idea how many people are actually signed up and participating, but seeing as how they're showcasing work that wasn't done by anyone at Colossal Spark and they'll even helpfully remove them if you ask, and seeing as how they don't really have a portfolio of any work to show, I'm kinda guessing that this isn't setting any hearts on fire.
I can't for the life of me understand why. Agencies should totally be okay with their employees moonlighting on different brands. And creatives should totally be okay with the eventuality of a thousand person gang bang on an assignment for a client who is too cheap to hire an agency.

You know what I think it is? I think people aren't getting how Colossal this really is. So rest assured, we here at Adland will be helping to spread the word to all of our friends and their ad agencies, too.

Footnote - this is important: We've been contacted by one of the people on the "advisory board", whose name used to be in this article. He has now made sure that his name is removed from that "advisors" page. He let us know that he had been asked for input 18 months ago, and hadn't heard from them since, nor has he provided any advisory work to Colossal spark. The plot thickens.

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Karan Bhatia's picture

hahaha i see your point, but i also see their point, as i said im on the fence, ill do a detailed review of your review and email it to you...dude...pal :) ok ? chill bro, not everyone is out to steal ideas, i have tried my best to review the bad apples, these sites are good for copywriters like me who are apprehensive about agencies, who think they are better than the creative directors the agency hired 100 years ago

kidsleepy's picture

Please do email us a review. I would love to read it.

Just to clarify though, I never said anything about stealing ideas, dude bro.

If you are apprehensive about agencies, I assume then, that you don't work for one? That's good-- because if you did, then working for Colossal Spark not only makes lousy business sense from your end (unless you like being underpaid for your work) but it's also a conflict of interest against the agency you worked for.

Some other points:

1. Look at the people on the 'advisory board,' of Colossal Spark. They actually work in advertising. You're not straying that far from the so-called 100 year old creative directors. In fact, judging solely by their photos, they don't look like 22 year old trust fund kids with zero experience who just developed a social app no one wants in the hopes of getting bought out by google.

2. Clients are still clients. They haven't changed. They are still judging your work whether it goes through a traditional
advertising agency, or through a "curator," who tweets for a living.

3. They pay shit rates.

I'm a copywriter, too, fyi. And while I hold no love for the side effects of traditional advertising (politics, out of touch with current trends) I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole.

But by all means, if you like it, go for it. Hope you get an invite if you haven't already. If not, I'll ask my friend to recommend you.

Karan Bhatia's picture

$1800 for 2 pages design is not that bad, considering 99designs and clones ahve been doing the same for $300-500 for years!

Dabitch's picture

You don't seem to be speaking about the same thing as Kidsleepy at all. At all. Would you like to try to stay on topic?

Or are you? Where did you get the number $1800 from? Is this a sum that one pays CS for "two pages"? We've never mentioned that sum here, and you seem to be confident that this is a number known. So are you part of CS and is this about "pages" rather than generating groundbreaking ideas as the CS homepage talks about?

kidsleepy's picture

Where did you get the number $1800 from? Are you a member of Colossal Spark? There's no monetary specifics on their site....
More importantly, is the argument that "you're still getting exploited but not as bad as the others," a good argument? I don't think so. We're talking about large brands behind this, with a lot of money. Not mom and pop shops.

Karan Bhatia's picture

read my idea to take cs to the next level -

Dabitch's picture

Surely it's some awesome creative types, right?

Maybe? Here's what we do know, one (probably fake) co-founder is Burkhard Hormann, (facebook) a graduate in law from the Hamburg university. They've secured the trademark.

Veronica Jin is the creative co-ordinator. She exists! She enjoys blogging about ads, hanging out at the One Show and meeting likeminded at meetups like findspark & 360i startup outlook.

Curtis Oliver Caja who studied at Miami Ad School and lives in Ft Lauderdale/Miami made this wooden mailer with a cigar and a lighter for Colossal Spark as he's the art director intern. He really likes a good cigar and majored in creative advertising at Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL before Miami ad school.

Speaking of Chicago, Polina Quick in Chicago handles operations and finance. That's also where Daniela Mueller-Soppart consults & manages NPOs.

There's a Colossal Spark facebook page of course. Colossal Spark would also like some angel funding and have a page here for that
Ray Mond is a made up person, who has created slideshares and a Quora profile touting crowdsourcing.

Agencykillers (facebook) are involved in some way. Cute name. So they're gonna kill agencies by offering creatives less pay than agencies offer....? uhm... yeah... okay? Anyway, that's a "directory of crowdsourced-based service providers".

Oh, and there's this. In case you don't already hate everything about this. Is that "Burk Hard" smoking a cigar and touting a very british accent? This all feels very similar to Giant Hydra which was founded by cigar-loving Ignacio Oreamuno of Ihaveanidea a few years back, except Ignacio never hid the fact that he was the founder of his creative elite crowdsourcing engine.

kidsleepy's picture

How smarmy is this. They seem to suggest that the people they've hit up to be part of the crowdsourcing platoon have somehow won them awards already, as opposed to these people being award winners in their own right. The more I spend time on their website, the angrier I get.

karan bhatia's picture

im having high hopes from CS and CS

Dabitch's picture

I guess your high hopes are blinding you to the rudeness of claiming other peoples awards created at other agencies as yours. Do you work for Colossal Spark?

karan bhatia's picture

no pal, i'm a participant on their site like any other, the $1800 figure was given in the brief wasn't it?

kidsleepy's picture

So bro dude, do you really want to work with an organization who misleads everyone by showing brand logos they had no hand in creating work for, because the people on the list happen to work at the agency who has these clients as agency of record? You really think that's cool, friendly man pal? Because we don't. Not at all. We think that stinks as much as their so-called lion's share reward.

Dabitch's picture

Whatever happened to this dudebro?